First River Farms has an interesting connection to local history. The land where our community now exists is in close proximity to property owned by a number of different people, including George Washington, our country’s first president. In the 1970’s, the developers of the community drew on historical references in their planning and the naming of streets.
River Farm, one of the five farms owned by George Washington and the namesake for our community, is now the home of the American Horticultural Society. The largest of all of the land holdings Mount Vernon Estate comprised, River Farm reached from the Potomac River inland to Little Hunting Creek, part of which forms the boundary to our community along the walking path. The first owners were the Brents, a Catholic, English family. In 1653/54 Giles Brent obtained 1800 acres for his year old son, Giles Jr. Because senior Brent’s wife, and the child’s mother, was a princess of the Piscataway tribe of Native Americans, the area was first named Piscataway Neck.
When Giles Jr. died, the land passed on to his cousin George Brent, and then, through him, to his brother-in-law, William Clifton in 1739. Piscataway Neck then became Clifton Neck.
In 1760, when bankruptcy forced Clifton to sell his property, George Washington purchased the entire 1800 acres and changed the name to River Farm. At that point, and to this day, River Farm is the northernmost of Washington’s five farms. Though Washington loved and pursued farmland, he never lived on or worked the land of River Farm. First he rented it, then about 1773/74 he gifted it to Tobias Lear, as a wedding present. Lear called the property Walnut Tree Farm.
Even though two generations of the Washington family occupied the land for a century after Washington purchased it, the name didn’t revert to River Farm until the early 1970s. In homage to the area’s rich history, the developers of our townhouse community provided memorable associations to President Washington in the naming of some of our streets. Clifton Farm Court, of course, alludes to one of the early River Farm owners, William Clifton. Dr. Craik Court is a tribute to James Craik, a Scottish immigrant to America who served as a military surgeon from the mid-1750s through the Revolutionary War and beyond. He was also the personal physician and friend to George Washington and administered to the President during his final illness. Most interesting might be the naming of the primary street leading into First River Farms. The seemingly odd spelling of Tis Well Drive is, in fact, not a name but a quote. The story has it that, upon his deathbed and after issuing instructions for his funeral to his secretary, Tobias Lear, the final words of the nation’s first president were "Tis Well."
Welcome to First River Farms, a place to grow your life.